ONCE UPON A TIME IN CELINA
Paper prepared and presented by Jessie Pafford Short
Once upon a time a long time ago when the land was virgin and the prairies were wild, boundless and dotted with flowers, a few families in
Tennessee decided to leave “them thar” hills and head for Texas, the promised land. The time was about 1868.
They settled two miles south of present Celina on land whose western boundary is the present Old Celina Cemetery and the eastern
boundary extended to the Vera Bunch Farm. Such names as Stone, Burriss, Willard, Lipscomb and Peterman were written on school
books. The town was named Celina, after the place the families had migrated from, Celina, Tennessee. Eventually there were 14 families
in this settlement. The town had a church, school, gin, general store and a post office. The first family to come was the Mulkey family.
But, all good things must come to an end, so the coming of the Frisco Railroad brought Old Celina to an end, not suddenly, but house by
house. The first building moved to Celina was a small 12 x 12 foot building, probably Dr. Clayton’s office. One fall, the Tidwell houses
were being moved to town, they were large houses to be pulled by a steam engine. But the rains came and the houses sat all winter on
Gearhart land which was close to the railroad. One of these houses is on Highway 289 today. In later years it was the home of Mrs. Terry,
Bennie G. Cox’s mother. Dr., Clayton’s house was the third house moved, Jim Bateman’s thresher engine pulled it across Buck Winn’s
land to its present location in 1901.
Prior to World War 1, Celina was a typical small rural town; it was a town of clean minds and dirty fingernails. The people were working
people—storekeepers, ginners, blacksmith, livery stable workers and railroad hands. The women baked their own bread, sewed for the
family and visited. All babies were born in the family home.
These were people of Spartan virtues. They were independently charitable, proud, religious and cultural people. These qualities have
From 1911 to 1918 the town was growing. About this time, Celina had four doctors (Walker, Collins, Hailey, and Clayton), three barber
shops, two banks, an opera house, six churches, a bakery shop, two hotels, and any number of mule drawn wagons on the square most
The people were church goers, The Baptist Church had a big bell in the belfry. The bell served a two-fold purpose, on Sunday AM, the bell
rang 15 minutes before worship hour. The people then came out of their houses and started walking toward their places of worship. The
Methodists coming west met the Baptists going east. The second use of the bell was to tell when a funeral procession was approaching
the church. It tolled one time for each year of the deceased person’s life. I suppose it was tolled just for funerals in that church. The tolling
of that bell made one think of the person who had died and of death.
Every summer each church had a revival lasting two weeks or more. Everyone went to everyone else’s revival. Occasionally an evangelist
would come along and hold a meeting that left an imprint in the lives of the townspeople. There are some in this room who remember the
Erwin and Sheehan meetings.
As an outgrowth of the Erwin meeting, the town decided to build a tabernacle, a place for revivals, big funerals or patriotic meetings. That
tabernacle was something—a huge wooden structure, well built, with north and south walls constructed so they could be raised so people
could sit in their cars and hear the service. The building would probably seat 1500 people, and many were the times one could not get a
seat at Sunday night service during a revival. The tabernacle faced east on 289 across from the lumber yard and it extended west almost a
block. It was just across from Monica Lovelady Nevins home. According to Mrs. Clayton’s diary, the first service in the tabernacle was June
The styles of this era are reflected in any photo of the past. The young girls wore the biggest bows of ribbons they could pin on the back of
their hair (their hair was done in braids). Then came hobble skirts—the tighter the better. When bobbed hair came in, everyone whacked
off her hair immediately. The high school girls wore Gibson Bloomers, they had two tows of elastic in them—one above the knee and one
below. They were beautiful, made of soft, shiny sateen material: they were bright colors-red, green and purple. They did not show below
the hemline, but when one played ball or walked up stairs, the bloomers showed—that was the idea.
About 1915, a bandstand was built on the square to the north of the center. On Sunday PM the local musicians gave a band concert—they
were good too! That was family entertainment. People didn’t venture far away from home in those days so local people provided their own
Of course, there was the annual Ousley Picnic, the first was in 1908. People took their dinner, spread it on tables, drank water and
lemonade from a galvanized tub that had tin cups fastened to it with bailing wire. They listened to politicians who proclaimed from a
platform draped in red, white and blue bunting (The Ousley Picnic ground was east of the football field across 289).
WW1 brought the town alive, yet it buried a number of its townspeople. Trains loaded with soldiers went through Celina daily with five or six
trains some days. The highlight of Sunday PM was walking to the depot and waiting for a train. The soldiers hung out the windows, waving
and shouting. The people cheered and wiped tears from their eyes. The Sunday PM crowd often numbered 100 or more, whole families
and all ages were there; it was the patriotic thing to do.
But the Spanish influenza struck cities and small towns alike in 1918, several young men in training camps died and were brought to the
home burying ground. (My father was the undertaker and I still have a mental picture of those flag draped caskets). Whole families took
the flu, it was almost impossible to get medical help when needed. If a nurse could be obtained for a family, the nurse often took the flu.
My family lived across from the southwest corner of the school ground in the house where Mr. And Mrs. Bass now live. My mother cooked
soup and took it to 32 patients all sick at one time, and all lived within 2 blocks of our house. She didn’t enter the home, she set the pan
inside the door. Papa was exposed to the flu over and over, but not one member of my family had the flu then or since. While I am citing
illnesses, I’ll tell you of another. I am not sure of the time, but there was an outbreak of meningitis across the land. People were terribly
frightened, Celina had one fatality, a boy died with the disease. There was no funeral, his casket was carried in a wagon to Old Celina
Cemetery. He was buried at night, all doors and windows were closed and no one was on the streets. (If it had been the bubonic plague,
the people wouldn’t have been more frightened).
During the Roaring Twenties, Celina came alive on Saturday Night, the square was 100% full of Model T’s and the Model T’s were 100%
full of people. Those who did not go to the picture show sat in cars or paraded around the square about 4 abreast. The stores stayed
open to 11:30 or 12:00 so people could pick up their groceries. The people visited, ate ice cream cones and discussed crops. About
midnight, the crowd had all gone home, knowing they would be back next Saturday Night. Ah, those were the good old days.
A town’s worth is its people, Celina has had its good and it’s bad—more good than bad. It has had a few unique characters, Uncle Pete
Peterman and Charlie Maier. Every generation has produced its beautiful girls: Hattie Gossett, Beulah Perkins and Emma Ownsby, to
name a few. It was not a town of giants or pigmies but the long and short of its inhabitants were John Gladden, 6 feet, 7 inches and Lee
Bounds, about 36 inches. Mr. Bounds lived on his farm just west of Old Celina Cemetery. After his wife, also a dwarf, died in 1906, he did
all of his housework and two or three times a week hitched his horse to the buggy and came to town, he was well liked. Mr. Bounds died in
Celina women have always adopted fashions mandate—be it Gibson Girl look of 1902 or the boyish look of 1925 (straight hair and bangs),
the new look of 1950 (beehive hairdos) or the unisex look of 1975 (jeans and pant suits). You might say we have come from the Gibson
bloomers to the bikini.
But it hasn’t all been a rose garden, there have been issues and spirited discussions over city and school elections, taxes, and politics
(one man killed another over politics). Lying dormant most of the time, the fighting spirit occasionally arose when citizens felt that justice
had not been done.
There have been instances when some of the young people failed to use good judgement (I don’t want to identify the individuals I am going
to tell about). Long years ago, two young men decided one summer that an easy way to make some money would be to travel about
conducting revivals, one would preach and the other would be the singer—this they did. In fact, they conducted revivals in a number of
towns, one night they failed to show up for the services, they had gotten drunk. Thus ended the evangelism.
Did you know Celina once had a race track, it was owned by Walter Parvin, he had inherited an enormous sum of money and a lot of land.
He built a racetrack just west of where we are now, the street in front of this house led to it. He had a 16 acre block of land; also he built a
big fine barn or stables. It was really a large track, with fine horses racing. But it didn’t last but a season or two. Mr. Parvin lost his money,
his property, his wife died, and in a year or two, he died leaving two teen-age boys and a daughter penniless.
Let me close by saying the memories of childhood never die, they live on in the recesses of the heart.